Pepparkakor – Swedish Christmas Gingersnaps

Spicy Pepparkakor with Orange & Black pepper
Spicy Pepparkakor with Orange & Black pepper
Pepparkakor (gingersnaps) are a traditional Christmas treat in Sweden. Early history of Pepparkakor is uncertain, because there is no reliable evidence.

Honey in cakes can be traced back to the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans. They believed that honey, the only sweetener widely available to them, was a gift of the deities and had magical and healing powers. Honey cakes were also worn as a talisman in battle or as protection against evil spirits.

The Spice Trade brought to table spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, pepper, and turmeric. In the Middle Ages, pepper was a luxury item and thus it would be natural at least to me, that pepper was used in cakes at very special occasions.

You need to plan ahead with this recipe as Pepparkakor dough should rest for a minimum 2 hours or best over night in the fridge. This recipe is best for smaller shapes.

Dry ingredients:

250 g plain flour I used type 00 + extra for dusting
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp ground ginger
2 tsp gingerbread spice or 1 tsp cinnamon; ½ tsp crushed cardamom seeds (about 8 pods); you can add 2-4 ground cloves or ground black pepper [hence pepparkakor – in my opinion]
Gingerbread Spice Mix Recipe
½ tsp of orange zest How to wash citrus fruit to get good zest
½ tsp black pepper (opt.) For extra spicy version

Mix all above ingredients in bowl with fork or whisk to incorporate little air into flour.

110 g butter (unsalted) best at room temperature
150 g caster sugar or granulated, fine crystal sugar or powder (icing) sugar

In another larger bowl mix butter with sugar till fluffy (best with mixer) and add

1 whole egg
1 tbsp honey best clear dark runny

Mix it until well combined and creamy.

Add all dry ingredients into creamy butter and with table knife cut through mixture to achieve kind of crumble.

With fingers gently press down the mixture in the same bowl to form smooth dough. The dough will be sticky and very soft.

Divide it into 4 or 6 smaller balls – wrap it in plastic bag (so it will not dry) and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours or best over night.

Preheat the oven to 170 °C

Take out from fridge one ball at a time, roll it out very thinly (about 2-3mm) onto floured surface and cut out biscuit shapes of your choice. Lift each biscuit with knife and place them on the baking paper on baking tray. Extra dough after cutting shapes gets very soft so put it back again in the fridge to harden, before rolling out more biscuits.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 7-8 minutes or until golden brown at the edges. Remove from oven and leave on the tray for few minutes (as they will be still very soft) Wait till they harden a little – before transferring them to a wire rack or plate to cool completely. It takes few minutes for them to harden completely.